If you had not had a chance to read through previous installments, please do so you can find the proper context.
OK, so far we have designed (on paper mostly) the experiences and used our acumen to do what we think customers want to get done. I know, this is not the way to do it. Customer-centricity is about making the customer tell us what they need. We need to build experiences the customer will use. However, I learned a very valuable lesson in crafting experiences – you cannot put a blank slate in front of a customer if you want to accomplish something before you retire.
So, we have the experiences designed, we consulted and agreed with business stakeholders and got their temporary buy-in, now is time to bring in the fun. Validate the design with the customers.
There are two methods to do this well: focus groups and detailed surveys. If you have a very specific online-only process you need to work on, you could add a third in the form of usability studies (fun for future posts). Alas, it does not apply if your online process also has offline components or comparable processes.
Let talk first about focus groups.
How do you successfully complete a focus group? No, not with practice. With understanding. You need to understand what experience you are designing, understand who are the better people to help you craft, and understand what feedback you are seeking.
Do you need users to help you determine if the timing of a set of steps is proper? Or are you looking for feedback on the end-to-end experience? Maybe you know you need to improve just one portion of the overall experience, say for example the question and answer that starts all phone conversations. Whatever is that you are trying to determine, make sure you understand that before you start. Once the focus group gets underway is often easy to forget what you need, lose your focus and end up asking questions about many other things. Sure, that is good feedback too, but hardly what you need.
Focus on what you know you need and don’t let the group deviate from the goal.
There are users that really care about an experience, and others that — not so much. Users that gave you feedback before, or that use the interaction more often, or that have complained in the past (whether it was on a direct feedback event or not) are the ones you want. Also, if you are focused on a specific product or service, you definitely want people that use it. Experience-crafting is the worse possible time to try to do some “marketing” disguised as something else. The idea here is to get people who will use the service or product to tell you how to build the experience.
A short word here on segmenting. Let’s say you are an advanced organization, and you have already done your segmenting. It is adopted across the enterprise, you know who your customers are, what is their lifetime value, what is their net worth to you, and all that. In other words, you know who you need to please: your VIP and Hopefuls (look at this post for more details). If you are at that level, then by all means — use your segments to choose the people you want in your focus groups. How to choose the right segments? That is fodder for another discussion.
A final word on focus groups. Most people think of offices with one-way mirrors, stale sandwiches, and long discussions when they think of Focus Groups. Did you know that a customer summit can easily turn into a focus group? That a retreat with your Customer Advisory Board is also a great place to have a focus group? There are many, many different ways to convene and properly utilize a focus group. Make sure you pick the one that fits your customers, your specific needs, and the information you need to collect.
A focus group sounds a little scary? Want to do something less complex, something simpler? Enter the survey realm.
Surveys are a lot simpler to carry on, but a lot more complicated to prepare.
When doing validation via a survey, you are actually asking customers questions about very specific actions or interactions in the experience. There is no “would you like to see” or “would you say this is good” type of questions. There are much more poignant and to the point. You want to know if the timing was too long or too short for a specific action? Ask just that. All the questions are going to be very specific, and very well worded. This is where the complexity comes from.
If you need more details than a simple yes /no answer, then the survey is not the tool for you. If you need to focus on a complex process, then the survey is the wrong tool.
Surveys are best suited for simple process, where we aim to collect simple feedback on simple processes.
If you cannot ask what you need to ask in a simple, 25-30 words sentence, then this is the wrong tool.
The same rules that we discussed for customer selection in focus groups apply for surveys, of course you want to ask relevant questions from relevant customers.
All in all, I recommend my clients use focus groups in most cases. I favor Customer Advisory Board style of focus groups as it serves two purposes: it tells customers that they are important enough to be included in an advisory board, and it brings people into the process without outside distractions.
I do rely on surveys for process validation, but only for very specific, quick-hit projects where we need to find a new way to do something quickly. Either by compliance, regulation, or internal pressure a process or action needs to be changed quickly, and a survey is the best way to find out whether the necessary changes will be welcome by the customers.
You want to know how to run a successful Customer Advisory Board – including a focus group? Well, that is another post altogether.
Two more things you need to do.
First, you need to incorporate the changes suggested by your customers (as long as they were approved by them) into the new design for the experience. Using the same tools you used to document them in the first place, add the new features, timing, or requirements you gathered from your customers. Finish the design, and then present it again to the same customers. You need to make sure their feedback was incorporated, and that they are satisfied with the results. When bringing their feedback to bear in your processes, always, always remember the win-win rule: if you cannot do it without a victory for both, you are better off explaining that and moving on.
Second, you will bring the new design back to the business stakeholders that will be affected. You still need to make sure it complies with their needs and requirements. If they approve, fantastic – you are all done and can begin the implementation.
However, if they have any sort of feedback and or changes, you need to do a very careful consideration of that. You are not going back to the users for more feedback if you have to change something due to internal requirements. You have to do a thorough evaluation of what needs to change, how, and what is the impact.
If the change is mandatory or necessary, then you have just one choice.
However, if the change is for ease of use within the corporation as opposed to the customer, then you have to analyze it within the win-win framework and with a customer-centric focus. If after all that you still need to make changes, you have to notify the users of the changes you made to the version they approved, explain why, and let them know of the benefits to them of making that change. This will ensure that they will participate again in focus groups.
We are all designed, validated and ready to implement the awesome experience we crafted. What’s next? Come back next week for the fifth installment in this series. We will begin to deploy these awesome experiences.
Before you go, I found this article quite interesting as an unconventional example of using a focus group to improve an experience. Enjoy